Coffee—The “Peace Crop”?
In post-conflict situations around the world, we have repeatedly seen local governments and aid agencies turn to coffee as a way to jump-start economic activity and growth, while helping lift farmers and communities out of poverty and giving them a stake in a more peaceful future. Private coffee companies are helping—they increasingly invest funding and technical assistance up front to support farmers, then make long-term commitments to buying their coffee even when supply is still shaky. So what is the evidence that coffee is the new “peace crop”?
On June 23rd of this year, the same week that the Colombia Government and the FARC rebels announced a new peace agreement, the Colombia Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and USAID signed a letter of intent to collaborate on coffee-based development activities. The event was celebrated at the Colombian Embassy in Washington, where multiple speakers made the connection between coffee sector opportunities and peace efforts. “When coffee moves in, conflict moves out,” says Juan Esteban Orduz of FNC.
Colombia is by no means the only country where coffee sector development appears to be a strong focus of post-conflict economic activities. In Rwanda, USAID funding over a decade played a key role in the successful revival of the coffee industry following the infamous genocide in the 1990s. In April of this year, USAID, Nespresso and Technoserve announced a new public-private alliance to support coffee farmers in South Sudan. In conflict-torn eastern DRC, USAID along with several other aid groups and private companies are making substantial investments in local co-ops to “restart” coffee production and marketing. Similar stories exist in Burma, Haiti, Burundi and even Yemen.
Beyond USAID, European aid agencies, large NGOs and foundations, and even enlightened individuals running small boutique companies have all made investments in the coffee sector in countries emerging, or trying to emerge, from conflict.
What is it about coffee that leads to this “peace dividend” role? Is it because of coffee’s highly tradeable nature as an international commodity in great demand? Is it because, as a perennial tree crop, coffee better withstands active military conflicts? Other factors?
Let me invite other bloggers or potential bloggers to jump in. If you’d like to contribute a short blog post (max 500 words) about your experience, story or observations on coffee as a “peace crop,” please submit it to Agrilinks@agrilinks.org.